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Barriers Remain for Women in Law

Bruce MacEwen, Larry Bodine and Carolyn Elefant all comment on Sunday's article in The New York Times, "Why Do So Few Women Reach the Top of Big Law Firms?" For MacEwen, the article prompted a letter to the NYT's editor, in which he offers his explanation for the paucity of women at the top. The problem, he suggests, is that lawyers avoid risks and follow the crowd:

"The combination of these two ingrained attitudes -- risk-aversion and crowd-following -- add up to the decision, when serious change is seriously proposed, not to decide. Which is of course a vote for the status quo."

In contrast, Carolyn Elefant asks, in so many words, "What did you expect from biglaw?"

"I know it's not PC to say so, but ultimately, the problem with large firms is that everyone, male and female, is held to an equal standard:  generate more billables, bring in more revenue.  It's an inhumane standard, sure, but it's gender neutral.  The real success stories aren't the women who continue to whine for accommodations at large firms that aren't available to men, but rather, the women who go out and create their own firms so that they can have the best of both worlds, on their own terms."

Larry Bodine offers kudos to Haynes & Boone in Dallas, where 25 percent of the firm's partners are women. The firm, says Bodine, "appears to have cracked the code for keeping women lawyers."

The NYT article picks up on a new book, "Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women's Success in the Law," by Lauren Stiller Rikleen, a partner with the Massachusetts firm Bowditch & Dewey. I've been making my way through an advance copy of Rikleen's book. She is scheduled to be our guest later this week on the legal news podcast Coast to Coast.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 20, 2006 at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


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